The Longshot: Ireland outsiders on world stages

Good start to the Rugby League World Cup, not so good in the cricket, writes Robert O'Shea
The Longshot: Ireland outsiders on world stages

LEAGUES APART: Ireland’s Innes Senior celebrates scoring the first of 10 ries in the Rugby League World Cup group game against Jamaica. Only one Irish-born player is in the Wolfhounds squad that plays under a flag of the four provinces.

WITH all the talk of world cups it may have slipped your notice that Ireland are participating in two at the moment — and should really be in a third, but the ladies rugby team failed to qualify for theirs for the first time since 1991 — a significant setback eight years after Ireland beat New Zealand in the pool stage and finished fourth in the 2014 tournament.

Our ‘Wolfhounds’ got their rugby league finals campaign off to a good start with a 48-2 thumping (10 tries) of Jamaica on Sunday at Headingley in a game shown live on BBC.

The Caribbean is not well known as a hotbed of the code, but then again, neither are we.

Only one of the players in the 24-man squad is Irish-born: Dubliner Ronan Michael, who is the first such player to play in the Super League since Brian Carney, the Sky Sports GAA presenter from Wicklow (but born in Cork), who also played rugby union for Munster and Ireland.

Of course with League only played seriously in three countries, it is no surprise that many of the other teams are filled to the brim with players born in Australia, New Zealand, or England.

Ireland head coach Ged Corcoran (who is not yet 40) was actually born and bred in Offaly before moving to the UK with his family and enjoying a career with clubs like Halifax and Sheffield, as well as earning 11 Ireland caps.

Of course, our present Union supremo, Andy Farrell was a legend of League and one of the most heralded players across the water before swapping codes in 2005.

We have six players from Down Under in the squad, the standout being Luke Keary.

The Sydney Roosters half-back is a former NRL Grand Final winner but said the chance to finally represent his country on the biggest stage ran all of his glittering domestic experiences close (he didn’t say how close).

Lebanon are next up for our 250/1 outright shots next Sunday before we meet the 16/5 second-favourites for the tournament New Zealand in the final group game.

The other World Cup we are taking part in (where we are also 250/1 outsiders) is the postponed 2021 T20 Cricket World Cup being held in Australia. We have to qualify through the group stages to reach the Super 12 stage of the event (which we have only done once, in 2009).

Our first game saw us lose to Zimbabwe yesterday afternoon.

Next up is Scotland tomorrow, followed by the West Indies on Friday.

Australia are the favourites to win both World Cups looked at here: 11/4 for the cricket and 8/15 in the league finals, which they have only left slip from their grasp once since 1972.

Giannis Antetokounmpo can buck Milwaukee up again.
Giannis Antetokounmpo can buck Milwaukee up again.

Bucks in good shape to regain title

ACROSS the ocean, top-tier basketball returns tonight with the beginning of a new season in the NBA.

The Golden State Warriors, led again by the wristy Steph Curry, are 6/1 joint favourites to defend the title they beat the Boston Celtics (also 6/1) to capture last year.

Something that always fascinates is just how many games are played on the courts over there. There are 82 regular season games and if you reach the play-offs you could be playing more than a hundred.

And the 41 guaranteed games on the road really mean in the air as vast distances are travelled for away games.

Don’t feel too sorry for the tall guys as NBA players are the world’s best paid athletes by average annual salary per player.

Last year Curry took the all-time three-point record and finals MVP honours. It is really worth watching a few Youtube videos of Curry practising long-distance shots.

The Milwaukee Bucks present one of the biggest challengers to last year’s finalists.

Favourites to defend their title last year, to take the title, Khris Middleton picking up an injury during the post-season games against the Celtics put the kibosh on it.

Their roster has Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Jrue Holiday, and the team from Wisconsin have the necessary star power and the motivation to get into the play-offs again and if they can survive a loaded Eastern Conference, and stay healthy, then they are in with a great shout of recapturing their crown.

Ooh, he’s shaved the woodwork there

LAST week we mentioned that prior to the Wigan v Cardiff Championship game someone noticed that one of the goalposts was slightly higher than it should be.

Two inches taller, which was a good spot by whoever was eagle-eyed enough to notice (not their goalkeeper oddly enough).

The incident prompted checks across the weekend by the EFL (a sort of pre-match post-game analysis) and when the match officials conducted their inspections prior to Hull City hosting Birmingham they found the nets were hoisted two inches too high on one side of the pitch there too.

On being told that re-sinking the posts would delay their tie by two hours, Wigan and Cardiff agreed to plough ahead despite the goal-frame discrepancy.

The officials in Hull proved to be a bit more upright when it game to the rules of the association and insisted they be fixed.

So the call came in to find someone who was handy at metalwork (not woodwork, as the posts are now made of aluminium) and they came, they sawed and recalibrated to ensure the goal-line technology would work correctly. The game was delayed by just 20 minutes. Birmingham won 2-0.

OK, not the most amazing story, but I’m pretty happy with the above headline. In fact, I’d say the bar had been set too high with it.

Power cut fails to halt Gunners

THE Premier League didn’t avoid match delays either with Arsenal’s visit to Elland Road delayed by 40 minutes after the power went out like Patrick Street on a Friday night.

But it couldn’t stop the Gunners stretching clear at the top thanks especially to a late VAR intervention. They are in to 6/1 to lift their first top-flight crown since 2004.

Rivals Spurs have had their best start (10 games) to a Premier League campaign but remain 28/1 shots.

And yes, it was here you read about Man City’s poor record at Anfield and how 3/1 on a home win or draw was worth a thought.

Take Ten

THE fallout from contentious chanting has continued into a second week and catapulted the Wolfe Tones into the top 10s of the music charts here and in the UK.

What about some less contentious ballads that might work for other sports:

1. Bowled Robert Emmett (cricket).

2. Fore, Green Fields (golf).

3. Whiskey In a Jar (swimming).

4. The Trialled Rover (greyhound racing).

5. The Velvety Backhand (tennis).

6. The Dressing Gown I Loved So Well (boxing).

7. I Am All Alone (marathon running).

8. The Fouled Triangle (snooker).

9. Animation Once Again (dressage).

10. On The One Road (bobsleigh).

The Bet

THINGS have not exactly gone as planned since I returned and some of the criticism has been warranted (“Tipster! More like tipsy” as one reader put it to us).

The longshots simply weren’t clicking so a short odds recommendation was offered to shore up any remaining goodwill out there.

Claressa Shields was an 11/10 winner when going the distance and taking a unanimous decision over Savannah Marshall on Saturday night. Some dodgy judging in the preceding fight on the night had us slightly worried about a hometown decision but the American’s class was well-represented on all three scorecards.

It’s not going to pay off for a while but take the Bucks to lift the NBA Championship at 7/1.

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